Want to be my friend? Do you like The Office?
When we were building our sketch comedy troupe back in Seattle, it took a while for everything to ramp up. Getting to the point of having a functional core group… well, let’s just say that not everyone was a good fit right from the beginning.
Now that I’m starting an online troupe down here in L.A., I’m being rigorous about selecting the people getting involved. Folks who respond to my ad (assuming they say something interesting about themselves) get a long e-mail from me explaining my vision for the group. I ask them to fill out a questionnaire and from there I interview the most interesting folks. Only if we hit it off in the interview do I then invite them to even audition for the group. It’s a lot of hoops to ask people to go through for a project that doesn’t pay, but I want this effort to get off the ground much faster than the last one did, and I’m sure that building the right team is key.
So this weekend I was sorting through my printouts of the various writers and actors who are in consideration. On each I had a sticky note listing their statistics: were they a writer or/and actor, part of town where they live, day job, taste in comedy. Once I had it spread out and labeled like that, I could suddenly see a pattern.
Of the people invited and still in the running to be invited, all but one listed The Office as a top three comedy titles. See, I had asked each person to look at a list of about a dozen sitcoms and comedy movies, and from them choose the three they thought were funniest and the one they found least funny. It was not an exercise in taste. As I mentioned on the questionnaire, I was less interested in WHAT they found funny, but instead wanted to know WHY they thought it was funny. I wanted to see that I was involving people who knew how to analyze and discuss why particular comedy works.
Their actual selections of top comedies had nothing at all to do with which candidates I chose to interview and then audition. The qualities I’m stressing are experience, openness to collaboration, and most of all enthusiasm for the idea of putting weekly comedy on the web. Still, I thought it was strange that this pattern had emerged. Had I coincidentally only chosen people whose taste included Steve Carell and company?
Then I realized that the answer is simpler than that. EVERYONE must have just put The Office. After all, it’s pretty much the strongest comedy on TV right now. No surprise The Office should be a ubiquitous choice among talented young comedians.
Out of curiosity, I looked back over the stack of people I hadn’t chosen…
Strangely, Occam’s razor failed me. In fact, in the recent stack of people I had passed up, only one person had picked The Office to be in their top three favorites. There actually seems to be a direct correlation.